I was just listening to a podcast talk by Jack Kornfield, a US Buddhist teacher and former monk. In the talk Jack tells the story of working in a Cambodian refugee camp with his teacher Maha Ghosananda. Maha Ghosananda was a Buddhist monk who became known as Cambodia's Gandhi for his work to bring peace to Cambodia after the Pol Pot holocaust that decimated its population.
I transcribed the story becuase I thought it was so profound. Here is is as Jack tells it.
"Mahagosanada got permission from the UNHCR to open this little Buddhist temple in the centre of the camp - which was 50,000 people in these little huts, without hardly any water or shade. And when the Khmer Rouge found out that the temple was being opened they let it be known that anyone who went to the opening would be killed when they returned to Cambodia.
So, it wasn't clear whether people would come at all. But he was this incredibly good hearted and loving monk. He was spared being killed - most of his family and monastery were killed - because he was in Thailand for the worst of it.
So he went around ringing this bell once the bamboo temple was made, and in the central square 25,000 people came. Half the camp showed up. And he sat there, in this dusty camp, looking out over the faces of these people, the faces of people in trauma. There would be one uncle with 2 nieces who had survived, a grandma with 2 grandchildren. Everone had lost family members, temples burnt, schools destroyed.
And I thought, 'What is he going to say to these people who have lost so much?' And he put his hands together and just began to chant, sounds in Cambobdian and Sankskrit that they hadn't heard for 8 years. In this beutiful chanting tone he began to chant one verse from the Dhammapada which says, 'Hatred never ceases by hatred but by love alone is healed. This is the ancient and enternal law.'
And after a while 25,000 people were singing, 'Hatred never ceases by hatred but by love alone is healed. This is the ancient and enternal law.'
And it was as if he was speaking a truth that was even bigger than their sorrows. Yes, there's destruction, yes, there's killing and still, there's no end to this without love."